NOTHING IS MORE CONTROVERSIAL in our present climate than biblical men and women’s roles. However, the Bible says much about God’s intention for work responsibilities in marriage. Here is a short summary.
God created Adam first. He created him with a task in mind— “work and keep the garden!” He did this before he created Eve. To fulfill this task God made him different from Eve.These differences are patently apparent to any objective researcher. “All the [research] points in the same direction,” notes George Gilder. “From conception to maturity…the man is …more aggressive, exploratory, volatile, competitive and dominant, more visual, abstract, and impulsive, more muscular, appetitive, and tall. He is less nurturant, moral, domestic, stable, and peaceful, less auditory, verbal, and sympathetic, less durable, healthy and dependable, less balanced, and less close to the ground.”
God designed men to lead, provide for, and protect women and children. We don’t need sociologists to confirm that men are taller, heavier, and stronger than women. Men have better eyesight, and stronger powers of concentration. They score lower on verbal tests but higher on mathematical tests. Male metabolism is higher. The right side of a man’s mind does what the left side of a woman’s does. Men are more oriented toward achievement. These differences are not socialized into males. They are biologically inherent.
God also designed Eve with a specific task in mind. “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). Physically, God designed the female to be the helper of her husband and the nurturer of their children.
The social sciences also confirm this design. Women are more durable, better able to endure pain and monotony, more nurturant, less volatile, and more stable. “Women have about 67% of the endurance and 55 percent of the muscular strength of men. Even when size is held constant, women are only 80 percent as strong as men.” Women have broader hips designed to carry children. They have breasts to suckle infants. Women hear better and have a greater capacity for multi-tasking. God designed women to bear children, and nurture them from infancy onward. In this sense he designed the female sex to “help” their husbands achieve the task God created him to achieve. This includes being “fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth,” and exercising dominion over it (Gen 1:28). It also involved working and keeping the Garden (Gen. 2:15).
Their task differentiation became even more apparent after Adam and Eve sinned. God cursed the task that he designed each of them to achieve. He didn’t curse Eve’s career. He cursed her child-bearing. “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
In the same way, he didn’t curse Adam’s parenting. Rather, he cursed Adam’s calling to provide for his family. “And to Adam he said… cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field” (Genesis 3:17–18).
These assumptions continue into the New Testament. Paul assumes that each Christian husband’s orientation is outward toward the world, not inward to the nurturance of children. His primary responsibility is provision—providing food and clothing for his family. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives,” Paul writes Timothy, “and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). The “anyone” Paul has in mind is not a wife. It is the male household head. Paul makes this clear by the use of the masculine pronoun “his.”
In the same way, on the basis of Genesis 1-3, Paul expects each married woman’s orientation to be inward toward her husband and children. When young children are at home, the wife’s primary task is nurturing children and helping her husband fulfill his calling, not providing food and clothing. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3–5).
In summary, the Bible teaches that a married man’s basic orientation is outward. He is to provide for his family by fulfilling the calling for which God made him. His wife’s fundamental orientation is inward toward the nurturance of children and the support of her husband as he attempts to fulfill his calling.
(More on how to apply this will follow).
For more on the biological, emotional, and mental differences between men and women see New York Times, John Tierney, Sept 8, 2008, “As Barriers Disappear, Some Gender Gaps Widen;” Men and Marriage, George Gilder; Man and Woman in Christ, Stephen Clark,
George Gilder, Men and Marriage, (Gretna, LA: Pelican, 1986) pg 20
Ibid, Gilder, pg 132